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already in progress, which afterward culminated in secession ordinances.
While this confederacy of seven States was forming, a convention, composed of delegates from most of the free States, and from all the border slave States, was in session at Washington, aiming to bring about, by compromise, a peaceable solution of the pending struggle. On the part of leading loyal men this conference was conducted in good faith, in a conciliatory spirit, and with an earnest desire to avert any more serious collision than had already occurred. On the other hand, it was manifest that at least the delegates from Virginia, with John Tyler at their head, were aiming only to use this means to widen the gulf already existing, and to overcome the decided Union majority still existing in all the border slave States. While a series of propositions, therefore, looking to peace on the basis of a preserved Union, were agreed to by a majority of the Convention (which adjourned on the 1st of March), no practical result appeared in the rebellious districts, unless of an adverse character. This action did serve, however, to proclaim to all the world the anxiety of the people of the free States to avert, by any possible concessions, the full initiation of civil war. On the 11th of February, likewise, the Federal House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by Mr. Corwin, of Ohio (soon after concurred in by the Senate), providing for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, forever prohibiting any legislation by Congress interfering with slavery in any State of the Uniona measure that fully set aside one of the chief pretended occasions for revolt. Going still further, in the way of concession, and in fact surrendering the long controversy about slavery in the Territories, were the resolutions known as the Crittenden Compromise, and which certain Southern Senators deliberately defeated, in their own house, by withholding their votes.
The temper and purpose of the secession leaders were thus distinctly manifested. They would have no compromise. On their own terms, of final separation alone, would they listen to terms of peace. Many of them manifestly desired war, and exulted in the hope of such revenge upon their Northern oppo
nents as war only could bring; while all insisted on yielding nothing, except on the condition of substantially gaining everything they aimed at, by a full recognition of a separate and independent Confederacy comprising all the slaveholding States. For to this end, though less than half the number of those States had already been carried by the revolutionists, they were zealously laboring, and of the final issue no doubt was entertained, when once the Montgomery organization was countenanced as a legitimate government.
It is unpleasant to mention, yet impartial history can not omit the fact, that hopes of peaceable submission to secession. were seemingly encouraged in Southern minds by newspapers and orators in the North, at this period, and that a number of political leaders, with scarcely any apparent popular support, it is true, earnestly advocated what they termed the policy of peaceable separation. To this day, perhaps, it may be doubtful to many minds whether, had not a spirit of unbounded insolence and a haughty defiance, that spurned even the slightest concession, been manifested by the secession leaders, this complacent policy-more fatal than any former compromisemight not have gained the ascendency in the popular mind.
So much had been brought to final accomplishment by the conspirators during the closing months of Mr. Buchanan's administration. Such was the spirit manifested by them to repel conciliation in every form, to maintain peace solely on condition of the complete submission of the loyal States to every essential demand of secessionism. And such, on the other hand, was the amicable disposition of loyal men everywhere, and their earnest wish to avoid a collision of arms, if any other solution were possible short of absolute degradation and ruin to the nation. Jefferson Davis, in assuming power as head of the "Confederacy," at Montgomery, February 18, stated the sole conditions of peace in the following unmistakeable language:
If a just perception of mutual interest shall permit us peaceably to pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will have been fulfilled. But if this be denied us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction be assailed,
it will but remain for us with firm resolve to appeal to arms, and invoke the blessing of Providence on a just cause.
This was immediately followed by the recommendation that a Confederate army be organized and put in training for the emergency; a well instructed, disciplined army, more numerous than would usually be required, on a peace establishment," being distinctly indicated as essential to his plans.
While it is thus clear that he and all his coadjutors were determined on war from the outset, and at all hazards, unless disunion were recognized as an accomplished fact, and the jurisdiction of the Government over the rebellious districts were abandoned without a struggle, it is equally manifest that not a single grievance complained of could have failed of redress, under our popular institutions, by peaceable methods. While deluding their adherents with smooth words, they deliberately chose an appeal to arms, and scorned a peaceable solution, which was equally at their disposal, under the Constitution and the laws.
Some acts of vigor and patriotic fidelity, during the closing days of Mr. Buchanan's administration, deserve to be remembered, to the honor of those cabinet ministers, to whom alone the country was indebted for these redeeming deeds. Dix, Stanton and Holt had preserved a remainder of popular respect for a Government that all the loyalty of the nation rejoiced to see transferred to the hands of a new executive, untried though he was, and terrible as was the task devolving upon him.
Despite all the threats, constantly repeated for months past, that Mr. Lincoln should never be permitted to occupy the Presidential chair, and desperate as had been the plottings for his assassination, he appeared at the east front of the capitol and received, at the appointed time, the oath from Chief Justice. Taney. During the period that had elapsed since the election, Mr. Lincoln had carefully studied the situation, closely watching the course of events. His inaugural address shows the results of his observation, and of the application of his sterling. good sense and comprehensive practical judgment to the mastery of the problem to be solved by him as head of the nation. He
clearly understood how everything depended, so far as his administration was concerned, on a true insight into the very heart of the question, and on the initiation, at the very outset, of an appropriate policy in dealing with the rebellion. The great insurrection is the uppermost thought-almost the exclusive theme of his inaugural address. That this was the wisest utterance of the time, manifesting a rare foresight, as well as a remarkable skill in briefly presenting the true questions at issue, in their proper bearings, with a calm, candid appeal to the nation, in all its parts, in behalf of law, order and peace, will more and more clearly appear in the light of after events. Whoever would acquaint himself with the inmost traits of Mr. Lincoln's character, as a public man, and at the same time discover, in honest and plain words, a statement in advance of the fundamental principles by which his administration has been guided, let him carefully study this paper, every sentence of which is full of meaning:
MR. LINCOLN'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES: In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President before he enters on the execution of his office.
I do not consider it necessary, at present, for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement. Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that, by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches, when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists." I believe I have no lawful right to do so; and I have no inclination to do so. Those who nominated and elected me, did so with the full knowledge that I had made this, and made many similar decla
rations, and had never recanted them. And, more than this, they placed in the platform, for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion, by armed force, of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes."
I now reiterate these sentiments; and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in anywise endangered by the now incoming administration.
I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause, as cheerfully to one section as to another.
There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:
"No person held to service or labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, he discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law.
All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution to this provision as well as any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause "shall be delivered up," their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?
There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by National or by State authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done; and should any one, in any case, be content that this oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?